The Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois celebrated its 5th Anniversary of The Springer Cup, an annual tournament for junior golfers. Modeled after The Solheim Cup, the event is match-play format composed of two teams, Red and Blue, who compete for the cup. Match play refers to a format of play where the number of holes won, not strokes taken, determines a winner. There are a total of 12 matches during The Springer Cup, and one point is awarded for each match won. The team with the most points at the conclusion of all the matches wins. In addition to the competitive aspect, the event also serves as an opportunity for the participants to learn and practice life skills, which enhance their growth not only as golfers but also as individuals, which is important to the Foundation.
The Springer Cup, named in honor of the late Don Springer, who is a Co-Founder of the Foundation, was established to bring kids together on and off the course, as well as to serve as an educational weekend intended to help the Foundation’s Program Sites understand what the tour professionals experience during match-play competitions. This annual event consists of three days of activities in which teams participate in two formats of play, team building activities, leadership skills challenges, and more.
This year’s event took place at Old Orchard Country Club in Mt. Prospect, IL. Rated as the one of the best-conditioned and challenging courses in the Chicago area, this location was chosen for the anniversary event because it is home to one of the Foundation’s most involved program sites, Prospect Heights Park District. Excited to host the tournament and thinking of the benefits that The Springer Cup has on participants, Site Coordinator Marc Heidkamp stated, “Communication skills are more important than the game itself, and golf helps to teach this.”
Qualifying for The Springer Cup is based on the number of accumulated points that Program Sites earn throughout the year, with the top 6 sites being invited. Sites earn these points by participating in Foundation activities, offering programs for junior golfers, completing paperwork, volunteering, and more. Each site invited to The Springer Cup brings four excited and prepared young golfers, two boys and two girls, to represent their organizations. Sites that participated in this year’s event were: Children’s Educational Institute, Inc. from Peotone, DuPage AME from Naperville, Peoria Park District from Peoria, Prospect Heights Park District from Mount Prospect, South Suburban Home School & Gym Group from Chicago Heights, and making their first appearance, South Shore Junior Golf Association from Chicago. Site Coordinator from South Shore Junior Golf Association, Terrell Andrews, had a goal for his program to participate this year. He declared, “To accomplish getting to The Springer Cup is huge. This is our first time playing this format. It was a great learning experience for the children and it helped them learn what responsibility really is.”
Being part of a team is an excellent way to learn responsibility. The Springer Cup provides the opportunity for coaches and participants from different Program Sites to work together. Since the Foundation greatly values the importance of responsibility and teamwork, it is crucial that The Springer Cup embodies these values throughout the entire event. “I am extremely proud of the sites who participated, our volunteers and my staff,” said Holly Alcala, Foundation Director. “Everyone involved works hard all year; each dedicating a significant amount of time and effort into the planning and execution of the event. Collectively, these groups and individuals work as a team in order to produce a wonderful and impactful event. And that is one of the life lessons that we hope the participants take away with them.”
Allowing the kids to experience true tournament play began with an Opening Ceremony on Friday, which included team building activities led by Mario Lambert, an experienced leadership training professional and Director of Professional Development Services for Computer Resource Solutions, Inc. The activities he led proved to be successful as the participants learned communication, trust, and comfort in talking with one another. One activity included being blindfolded while navigating through obstacles, while the other was an exercise where a ball had to be passed among each other in order to learn each participant’s name.
Saturday marked the first day of play, consisting of an introduction to scramble format. In this format, both players from a pairing tee off, and the players then select the best shot and both play their next ball from that location. This process continues until each team holes out. Following tournament play, Saturday night’s celebration at Twin Lakes Resort was comprised of paddleboats, fishing, bean bag toss, SNAG mini-golf, as well as a water balloon toss. It was a great time filled with smiles and fun as the first round of The Springer Cup was completed.
The tournament concluded on Sunday with alternate-shot format, where two players for each team competed against each other. Each pair played one ball, and was required to alternate hitting the ball for the duration of each hole. Following the second round on Sunday was the banquet, where all attending the event were able to eat and socialize before the Closing Ceremony began. Medals were awarded to each of the participants, as well as gifts to the very devoted Site Coordinators. Though Team Blue took home the trophy, everyone was able to take home a meaningful experience from the weekend’s events.
In addition to the medals that were awarded, Sunday’s Closing Ceremony also included the presentation of the ALBATROSS Award. Albatross is a golf term referring to a player shooting three strokes under par for a given hole—an incredible achievement. The ALBATROSS Award is a special award created by the Foundation and meant to recognize a participant who demonstrates throughout the event, a high level of character and achievement both on and off the course. ALBATROSS stands for Attitude, Leadership, Benevolence, Achievement, Teamwork, Respect, Optimism, Spirit, and Sportsmanship—all of the values that the Foundation seeks to include in The Springer Cup. This year’s winner was Shannon Ilg from South Suburban Home School & Gym Group in Chicago Heights. It was an award given to her based on a nomination system; Site Coordinators as well as her peers felt that she was the individual who most embodied these qualities throughout the tournament.
The weekend was indeed a success and could not have been accomplished without the help of many individuals who donated their time and resources. This year was extremely special, as there were multiple past participants from The Springer Cup who volunteered in different capacities. “I enjoyed playing in The Springer Cup, and wanted to be involved in all the action,” said Anna Travis, past participant from 2009. “It is important to give back, that way you will be prepared for future jobs and it’s a good example to set.” Since 2006, there have been 24 previous participants who have gone on to either coach teams at The Springer Cup or to volunteer at other Foundation events.